Music in Schools: 2015 California All-State Jazz Band

Strymon is committed to supporting and promoting music in schools. Most everyone here plays an instrument and many of us were members of our schools’ music programs. We hope to inspire young musicians to continue to create amazing music.

This year, we were proud to sponsor Spencer Lemann of Windward School on behalf of the California Alliance for Jazz.  Spencer was selected to play guitar for the 2015 California All-State Honor Jazz Band. We asked Spencer some questions about his journey as a musician and his new album, The Main Event.  Check them out below.

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When did you start playing guitar? Why did you gravitate towards the guitar?

I started playing guitar at five, but it was not the first or last instrument I learned. The first instrument that I played was actually the violin, and since then, I have learned to play over 14 instruments at varying levels. Guitar is certainly my primary instrument, and I gravitate toward it because it has always felt most like an extension of my body (with the exception of voice). Nonetheless, I prefer to say that I gravitate to music in general.

Were there any teachers or instructors that really stood out while learning guitar?

I have been working with Gunnar Larsson since I was 5 years old, and he has been the biggest driving force behind my guitar playing. He was originally a teacher for my father starting when I was about 3-1/2, but after I kept interrupting them and wanting to play along, my father gave me a small lesson at the end, and eventually I was able to have my own lesson. I am lucky to call him a friend and a mentor, and I would not be the same person or player today without him. In addition, I have been lucky to work with other outstanding musicians/teachers and I am so grateful to them for their wisdom, patience, and incredible generosity of knowledge and time. Last but not least, the directors of the Windward School music department, Bruce Eskovitz and Lisa Weinstein, are incredible musicians and invaluable mentors, as well as Lee Secard from the Colburn School. All of these people greatly help me continue to grow into the musician I want to be.

Who are your influences?

I listen to and play many different types of music, so my influences vary. Some of my influences include Pat Metheny, Earth Wind and Fire, Lee Ritenour, Django Reinhardt, Francis Cabrel, John Coltrane, Blitzen Trapper, Wes Montgomery, AC/ DC, and Charles Mingus, as well as classical composers like Martinu, Roussel, and Ravel.

Talk to us about what you performed in the 2015 California All-State Honor Jazz Band. And what it was like to perform with the 2015 California All-State Honor Jazz Band.

The 2015 All-State Honor Jazz Band was an incredible experience. It was great to be with such talented musicians who shared my passion for music. It was an honor to work with John Daversa, who taught me so much even in a short period of time. The performance was incredibly fun, the arrangements were beyond anything I could have imagined, and the people there really made it special. I am so grateful that Strymon sponsored me. It was so generous for my favorite pedal company to support me, and I am proud to use their outstanding equipment.

You just released a new album The Main Event, can you tell us about your songwriting process and about making The Main Event?

I have been writing pop, rock, and blues songs for about 8 years, and composing jazz and classical music and producing for about 3. I tend to write music when I hear or come up with interesting words and phrases, and especially when something has happened in my life, or when I recognize something that has a profound effect on me. Before I began producing The Main Event, I had been recording more and more, and defining my sound, which i call Pop-Fusion. I then thought it was a good time to produce a 10 song album to distribute on iTunes, Amazon, and other music sharing mediums. I played all of the instruments on the album, and produced it in its entirety. It is a process that I greatly enjoy, even though it can be all-consuming.

Find Spencer’s album The Main Event on iTunes and Amazon.

Want to listen to more check out Spencer on Soundcloud and YouTube.

Get to know Spencer more over at his Facebook page here.

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